Rail system to gain speed
Agility Trains, a consortium of Hitachi Rail Europe and John Lains plc, has unveiled the first of its pre-series Super Express Trains to be supplied to the UK, the International Railway Journal reported on 24 November.
The firm will finance, supply and maintain 122 trains for the Great Western Main Line and the East Coast Main Line under the Department for Transport’s Intercity Express Programme.
The first nine production trains will be built in Japan, before assembly switches to Hitachi’s new purpose-built plant in County Durham in mid-2016. The first train is due to arrive in Southampton in 2015.
Midlands firms test market on trade mission
Eight firms from the manufacturing and automotive sector have visited Japan on a trade mission, the Shropshire Star reported on 28 October.
The trip saw the West Midlands-based businesses visiting the Japan International Machine Tool Fair, the British Embassy Tokyo and a number of key local manufacturers.
Some, such as oil mist extraction unit manufacturer Filtermist International Limited, already have contacts in Japan. Others such as Grainger and Worral Limited—a technical castings firm—hope to take their first steps into the market.
Poll shows why students pick UK
British universities continue to attract students from Japan, Times Higher Education reported on 15 November.
A survey of 2,004 Japanese students by the British Council shows that 45%—a figure similar to, or better than, figures for other developed nations—had studied abroad or wanted to study abroad in the future.
The reasons cited for choosing a British university include the chance to experience living in the UK, world-class universities, prospects for a career abroad and safety.
Sport tie-up for youth
British Swimming, the national body governing swimming in Great Britain, has teamed up with its counterparts in Japan to boost medal prospects in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the BBC reported on 11 November.
Junior and senior swimmers will join training camps in both countries, and techniques in the areas of sport science and medicine, as well as information for novice and elite coaches, will be shared.
According to Tim Jones of British Swimming, “The quality of youth swimming in Japan is beyond anything in comparison with the rest of the world—except, perhaps, the USA”.
Life imitates art for new English class
DVDs and scripts of Downton Abbey—a British period drama TV series, first aired in the UK in 2010—are being used in a new English language course for Japanese students, The Daily Mail reported on 21 November.
Approached by the Japan distributors of the series, NBCUniversal, Inc., the British Council is running the class following a successful theme night in Tokyo about the British drama.
The course, which has attracted a variety of students, from those of university age to pensioners, was over-booked within a day of opening. The British Council plans to run another course to coincide with the airing of the show’s second series in January 2015.
Virtual pop star debuts in London
Hologram idol Hatsune Miku gave her first performance at the 2014 Hyper Japan Christmas Market in Olympia, London, www.wired.co.uk reported on 10 November.
A creation of Sapporo’s Crypton Future Media, Miku has become a modern icon, with over 100,000 songs recorded using her image.
Miku’s appearance was handled by Mirai no Neiro, a volunteer group focused on spreading the appeal of synthesised performances abroad. It was preceded by a short talk on the history and cultural significance of vocaloid—a technology for voice synthesis—culture in Japan.